Last Autumn, while suing Larry Flynt's Hustler Club for sexual harassment, my lawyer and I learned what Nevada SB 224 was, during a settlement conference with our opponent's attorney and the Nevada Equal Rights Commission. We had never heard of this bill before or knew how it could destroy my case. It was like a bomb had dropped during the telephone conference. On a state level, this bill redefines what an independent contractor is. It throws out the traditional and federal definition of what an employee is according to the Fair Labor Standards act, narrowing requirements in just a way that would exclude strippers. The Nevada Equal Rights Commission decided not to investigate my case, because they were unable to establish an employee-employer relationship. Only employees are able to sue for sexual harassment, while independent contractors are not. My lawyer and I have obtained a right-to-sue letter anyway, so we are still suing Hustler for my unpaid wages and sexual harassment. We think we can beat this poorly drafted, state-level bill that was put into law less than a year after the Sapphire strippers won their class action suit. It was very disappointing to learn that not only the NERC, but also the labor commission will not help us, but we continue to press forward.
After I learned about the tragedy of Nevada SB 224, I did some investigating to find out how the greedy, amoral republicans and libertarians managed to pass this bill in Nevada so quickly after the Sapphire victory. I found a non-profit organization called the Coalition to Promote Independent Entrepreneurs, headed by an attorney named Russell Hollrah. Through reading Hollrah's non-profit blog, I have learned of three other states besides Nevada that have passed bills similar to SB 224. Those states are Arkansas, North Dakota and Indiana. In various respective ways, these bills in each state are redefining what it means to be an employee. By narrowing the definition, these bills strip employees of the right to organize a labor union, sue for sexual harassment, discrimination, workman's compensation, overtime pay and more. All of the things that labor activists in generations past have fought and died for are being taken away from employees, by neglecting to define them as employees at all.
I contacted Russell Hollrah for an interview. He initially accepted an interview, but later declined by writing me an email that said,
“I apologize for the delay in responding. The past couple weeks have been very busy. I am leaving town today. I do not believe it will be possible to work an interview into my schedule within the next couple weeks. Sorry about that.”
I responded by asking if I could talk to someone else from the non-profit, or talk to him after he was done traveling. He neglected to respond. I believe Russell Hollrah was lying to me in his email, and that he actually just googled my name and decided not to let me interview him after he learned about my litigation.
In Nevada, SB 224 was drafted without a lot of fanfare. None of the strippers from Sapphire were invited to the Spring hearings. Republicans voted it into law. It was all very discreet. On Russel Hollrah's blog, there is a post about it that is only accessible to paying members of the non-profit. Libertarians and republicans are organized in their agenda to strip employees of their rights, and they are doing it as quietly as possible, because they know that fanfare would only bring negative attention.
Russell Hollrah's website states that workers prefer to be called independent contractors. As an employee who is often misclassified as an independent contractor, I don't like it that Hollrah is speaking for me. I know I am an employee who is misclassified, and the Nevada's SB 224 undermines federal laws meant to protect me. With Arkansas, South Dakota and Indiana all having similar state level bills, the need for vigilance and active opposition will become evermore vital in the coming years.